Jump in the waves or go to the races in this classic California beach town

Matthew Jaffe,  – July 10, 2007 | Updated May 16, 2018

They play Bing Crosby’s “Where the Turf Meets the Surf” each day at Del Mar Racetrack. And for good reason: That song neatly captures the essence of summer in Del Mar. With the ponies running at the track and the waves breaking along the shore, a visit here has become an August ritual for many Southern Californians. The legendary track — where Seabiscuit defeated Ligaroti in 1938 — still retains the glamour that made it a favorite during Hollywood’s golden age. First post isn’t till midafternoon, so there’s plenty of time to hang by the ocean or explore Del Mar’s villagelike shopping district before heading over to the races.


Del Mar is 20 miles north of San Diego. From I-5, exit at Via de la Valle and go west. The racetrack is well signed; to reach the village, turn south on Jimmy Durante Blvd.


Americana This modern mainstay with sidewalk seating is a good bet for breakfast. INFO: $$; 1454 Camino Del Mar; 858/794-6838.

Jake’s Del Mar Beachfront restaurant with a good seafood selection and vaulted ceilings almost as gorgeous as its ocean views. INFO: $$$; 1660 Coast Blvd.; 858/755-2002.

Red Tracton’s With cuts of meat proudly displayed, a piano bar, and a beloved lobster bisque, this 1948 classic was old school before the term existed. Celebrate wins or drown your sorrows with a post-race martini at the bar. INFO: $$$; 550 Via de la Valle; 858/755-6600.


Del Mar City Beach Soak, splash, or stroll. Head south beneath the bluffs or north past beachfront homes to the San Dieguito River. INFO: Main access at 17th St.; 858/755-9313.

Del Mar Racetrack For a table with a primo view, reserve a spot at the Stretch Run Grill (from $50, includes seating for four; food extra) or other track restaurants. Following twilight racing on Friday, stay for the weekly concert. INFO: Closed Tue; season runs through Sep 5; first post at 2, except Fri at 4 (3:30 starting Aug 17); $6, plus $6 parking; 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd.; 858/755-1141.


L’Auberge Del Mar Resort and Spa (120 rooms and suites from $380; 858/259-1515) is perfectly situated in the heart of Del Mar, with easy access to shopping and restaurants and a short walk to the beach. The hotel is on the site of one of Del Mar’s earliest retreats, the Stratford Inn, and celebrates the town’s history with vintage photographs, many featuring Hollywood notables. Its rooms bring the beach inside with a breezy, coastal-cottage decor, while the resort’s tiny Durante Pub & Bistro ($$) is a lively local watering hole, especially during race season.


Keep Reading: